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Orianna2000
09-11-2012, 05:21 AM
In my medieval sci-fi/fantasy world, the people are descendants of colonists, so while the basic level of technology is late medieval/early renaissance, they do have a few things that you wouldn't normally see in that period. For instance, plumbing. The palace in one of the capital cities has indoor plumbing. I know the Romans had it, so I don't believe this should stretch the imagination too much.

What I need at this point is an explanation for how they have hot water in the luxury guest rooms. A pipe runs out of the wall, she unplugs the pipe, and water pours out. Within a few minutes, the water turns hot and she fills the bathtub with steaming water. How would this work, exactly? The best I can come up with is a vat of perpetually boiling water on the roof that drains (via gravity) throughout the palace via pipes in the walls. But I'm not sure that's entirely practical. Would they use enough hot water to warrant having a giant vat of water boiling 24/7? Would it be better to have it on an as-needed system, where she rings a bell, servants scurry around to light the fire and boil the roof water, and 5 minutes later she opens the tap and has hot water?

Or is there a better way altogether? I tried Googling the subject, but all I found were ways of making hot water while camping, or in survival situations. Nothing about how to heat hot water and have it flow to a room within a medieval castle.

Medievalist
09-11-2012, 05:53 AM
Research Roman baths, and hypocausts.

Indoor plumbing for latrines/privies wasn't uncommon in European castles in the 14-16th centuries.

waylander
09-11-2012, 10:41 AM
Geothermal from the original colonists' installation?

anguswalker
09-11-2012, 01:54 PM
she rings a bell, servants scurry around to light the fire and boil the roof water, and 5 minutes later she opens the tap and has hot water? wouldn't it be more likely that she rings a bell and servants bring the hot water? Where labour is cheap it would seem an awful lot of unnecessary use of resources (lead for pipes, copper for perpetually boiling vat etc.) to have a plumbed-in system, just for someone to have a bath in private. I don't think privacy had such importance in mediaeval times anyway- it would have been a positive advantage to have a servant there during a bath anyway. The question I suppose is do your colonists inherit a mediaeval social structure along with their mediaeval technology? Your speculation about servants scurrying around would seem to suggest that they do. So I would suggest one central source of hot water (in the kitchens, where it would be most often used) from which hot water is carried by servants to where it is required.

Unless you do have a geothermal supply, as waylander suggests. The trouble is, the water would then likely be heavy on the minerals, sulphur etc. Good for the skin but possibly a little smelly.

Alessandra Kelley
09-11-2012, 02:12 PM
There's a fun, very dense book, Engineers and Engineering in the Renaissance by William B. Parsons, Jr., published by MIT Press in 1976, which is a posthumously published mishmash of an incredible number of notes on different things.

At least one chapter goes into excruciating detail on the plumbing of Renaissance Paris.

I mostly remember details about pumping stations in the Seine and fines of people who welded private pipes into their houses. It's probably worth a look.

waylander
09-11-2012, 04:30 PM
Unless you do have a geothermal supply, as waylander suggests. The trouble is, the water would then likely be heavy on the minerals, sulphur etc. Good for the skin but possibly a little smelly.

That is going to depend on the source of the hot water. If it is from a genuine volcanic hot spring the you are correct. However, if it is a borehole to reach hot rocks then the water may not necessarily be high in mineral content.

Thump
09-11-2012, 04:44 PM
Anne MacCaffrey had hot water in her Weyrs but they were carved into the sides of dormant volcanoes and they tapped into water that was being heated by what the volcanoes and they couldn't really choose the temperature. Everyone else had to have their hot water the old fashioned way, by heating it over a fire.

Do you absolutely need to have hot water from pipes for your story to work? Because you'd probably have to do more explanation than you might want to since it's something that's likely to strike the reader as difficult to believe. I suppose that the colonists, coming from a more tech advanced society than ours might have left the structures behind and these have lasted for a very long time and so their descendants don't necessarily need to know how to replicate it by themselves but can use it easily enough. I imagine that if your castle grew up around previously existing structures, then the old structures left by the first generations could easily have become the luxury suites over time because they were plugged into a plumbing system they can no longer recreate.

Orianna2000
09-11-2012, 06:21 PM
Thanks for all the replies! I'm trying to make this novel different from the standard fantasy story. I want it to be clear that they're descended from colonists with high technology, by giving them a few things that you don't see in most medieval fantasy novels.

Yes, there are servants, but they're not indentured, they're well-paid for what they do. There's a king whose position is inherited, but he has a council of advisers who are elected by the people, and if necessary, they have the authority to override the king's decisions, and they decide whether his heir is worthy of becoming the next ruler. If not, a new ruling line is elected.

I wanted the scene to support the hints I've been giving that this isn't your typical medieval society. They know things they shouldn't know and they have technologies they shouldn't have. Having servants bring buckets of hot water is rather cliched, at this point, so I'd really like to avoid it. Plus, I want to show that she's an honored guest of the king, and so he's put her in one of the rooms that has running hot water.

If it's really not feasible to have running hot water in a private room, I could have there be a VIP bathroom, where privileged guests can go for a hot bath. The water would be heated boiling, like the Roman baths, but on a smaller scale. Similar to the baths on Pern, where it's a shared commodity, but not heated by geothermal energy, just by a boiler that heats the water.

In fact, this actually gives me an idea for a scene. The MC rode to the castle with a company of soldiers, so they could be bathing in the men's baths nearby, and she might hear them as she's bathing, or she might run into her love interest on her way out of the baths, while she's damp and pink and half-dressed.

Alternatively, I was thinking there could actually be a water heater in the guest room. A miniature version of the Roman boiler, which the servant could light, and then 5-10 minutes later, the water is hot and flows into the bathtub. Is that any more realistic? Or should I stick with the shared VIP bathroom idea?

benbenberi
09-11-2012, 08:01 PM
In an urban setting, it's not implausible there could be a water-collection system (gutters, pipes, cisterns) to capture rainwater from the roofs of a large building or complex. That would make gravity-fed internal plumbing more practical. (You could supplement it with some other water supply mechanically pumped in, from a well, river, public water supply, etc., if rain runoff is insufficient for what the household needs.)

But on-demand heating is definitely the way to go -- keeping water hot all the time regardless of need would waste an enormous amount of both water & fuel, & require constant attention from the servants (or else the fire would either die or burn down the building).

Buffysquirrel
09-11-2012, 11:29 PM
Then again, that is what servants are for.

Motley
09-12-2012, 01:42 AM
Have the pipes run through the walls over top of the ovens in the kitchen. In a castle they would probably be kept lit at all times, due to the large quantity of food needed.

Since kitchens are probably on the ground floor, the water would have to be pumped up to the rooms. Servants could do that if you don't want them just fetching large kettles.

Orianna2000
09-12-2012, 01:51 AM
Interesting idea, having the pipes run past the stoves. I'll keep that in mind, thanks!

James D. Macdonald
09-12-2012, 02:10 AM
Put the source of the water on a mountainside above the highest tower of the castle.

frimble3
09-12-2012, 02:17 AM
I like the idea of a bathhouse, with a private bath for the elite, and their favoured guests. It makes more sense for a large group of people, like the inhabitants of your castle. There's enough people, that if there were sceduled times for this group and that, there'd be reason to run the boilers continually. Men's days, women's days, etc.
Especially if they're connected with the kitchen water supply, and some sort of laundry. Say baths are at the beginning and end of the work day, and the laundry and kitchen gets the water during the day. Diverting a little water for the gentry to bathe would be a minor thing.
Especially if the bathhouse has a social role, as it did for the Romans. If there are people hanging around, enjoying the heat, and the company, the higher-ranking people might enjoy a bit of privacy.

dirtsider
09-12-2012, 02:40 AM
Having something similar to the Roman baths would also allow for having the fires running 24/7 since people would be coming and going at all hours. Also, if the MC is visiting a noble or the king, there's going to be a large number of people involved with maintaining said noble/king (i.e. guards, servants, etc). So there will be a need for a regularly stoked bathing facility. Those who work the night shift (guards and their support staft, etc) might be taking a bath on the 'off' hours.

Orianna2000
09-12-2012, 05:02 AM
Right now, I've got two baths, one for ladies and one for gentlemen. Thus far, it hasn't needed an explanation, but I like the idea of the perpetually heated "gentry" baths, maybe with special hours for servants to use them. I don't want to go too Roman, as that would skew my society even further from its late-medieval theme, but private baths for small groups of knights and ladies could work. Thanks!

BDSEmpire
09-12-2012, 05:53 AM
I mostly remember details about pumping stations in the Seine and fines of people who welded private pipes into their houses. It's probably worth a look.

Hahah, this is one heck of an image. Sounds like an Inspector Clouseau routine. You can see a whole crew of heavily muscled men working with torches and pipes to put in a new line off the main pipe.

"Mssr. what are you doing?"

"Nothing! It is nothing. Only a little late night welding, for practice."

"Hmm, you are not, as they say, 'tapping the line'?"

"Mon Dieu, it is unthinkable!"

"Bon. A pleasant evening to you and your pipefitter crew."

"Au revoir."

blacbird
09-12-2012, 11:22 AM
Throw the shit over the wall.

caw

Alessandra Kelley
09-14-2012, 04:51 PM
Hahah, this is one heck of an image. Sounds like an Inspector Clouseau routine. You can see a whole crew of heavily muscled men working with torches and pipes to put in a new line off the main pipe.

"Mssr. what are you doing?"

"Nothing! It is nothing. Only a little late night welding, for practice."

"Hmm, you are not, as they say, 'tapping the line'?"

"Mon Dieu, it is unthinkable!"

"Bon. A pleasant evening to you and your pipefitter crew."

"Au revoir."

Ha ha, yeah. There were people who had to install and maintain public fountains on the outer walls of their property as penalties for sneaking in taps.

One of the things that I found fascinating about the Roman aqueducts and later things based on them is that the water cannot be turned off. It all has to go somewhere. You've basically got a river running through town in the form of lots and lots of little pipes.

So the drains are very important.

Ariella
09-15-2012, 02:47 AM
Perhaps late medieval cooking technology could be adapted for baths. Many castle and monastery kitchens had special facilities for heating large cauldrons. Think of a wood-burning bread oven, but low to the ground and possessing a large hole at the top so that a cauldron can be fitted into it. Peter Brears describes these boilers in his book Cooking and Kitchens in Medieval England.

You could do the same thing with a bathtub. The main problem would be that the tub itself would heat up faster than the bath water, so there would be some danger of burning the bather. Perhaps the boiler could be situated in the next room and connected to the bathtub by a pipe? There would also have to be a second pipe to drain the tub.

Orianna2000
09-15-2012, 03:04 AM
Interesting idea. I would go with the Roman style boilers, where the water goes to the bathtub via pipes. Less risk of hurting someone that way. They had three baths: hot water, which was closest to the boiler, warm water, which was the next room over, and cold water, which was furthest away. I won't have so many bathtubs--just two tubs, one for men and one for women, with the boiler situated in between.